1. Things are not as dire as you may have heard
If you spend much time reading articles and blogs about the state of Christian worship in America, you have probably heard that 80% of churches are either plateaued or declining. Is that true? According to Lifeway CEO, Thom Rainer, it is not.
In a study of 1,000 churches, Thom Rainer found that only 65% were in decline, while 35% were growing. While a 65%t decline in churches is nothing to celebrate, the situation is better than we might believe. We do not have to be fatalistic about growth opportunities. With smart, intentional growth strategies in place, churches can grow.
2. Regular church attendance is dropping
While 75% of Americans identify as Christian, regular church attendance is faltering. Only Only 23–25% of Americans and a church service three out of every eight Sundays.
Believe it or not, this statistic presents a real opportunity for churches who want to impact their communities. There are plenty of people who have a friendly disposition toward Christianity, but they have not found a faith community that they are committed to. It is quite likely that many of them have every intention of getting back into church, but they have allowed life to get in the way. Why not try a come back to church outreach?
3. Good teaching still matters
In a 2017 survey, Gallup asked people to rate factors that might encourage them to attend a specific church. Here is how they responded:
- Sermons that teach you more about Scripture: 76%
- Sermons that help connect religion to everyday life: 75%
- Spiritual programs geared toward children and teenagers: 64%
- Lots of outreach and volunteer opportunities: 59%
- Dynamic, interesting, and inspiring religious leaders: 54%
- Social activities that allow you to get to know people in your community: 49%
- A good choir, praise band, cantors, or other spiritual music: 49%
It is heartening to see that when it comes to choosing a church, people are still looking for a place that can help them understand Scripture—and explain how it intersects with their everyday lives.
4. The long-term impact of church conflict
Only 29% of surveyed churches that had a serious conflict in the last five years grew between 2010–2015. More than half of churches with no significant churches experienced growth during the same period.
Anyone who has been in a church that is walked through major conflict can attest to the indelible impact it has. Whether it is the result of a split or a pastoral failure, the unresolved feelings can hurt a church long after the mess has been resolved. Churches that want to experience growth need to create boundaries to protect it from significant conflict, because conflict can undermine health for years to come.
Interestingly, all tension is not bad. Churches that experienced some non-serious conflict grew at a rate greater than churches that experienced no conflict at all (53.8% vs. 51.1%). There seems to be some truth that some conflict helps to spur growth and maturity. It is a sign of passionate people learning to live in a community.
5. Member engagement is key to growth
When church members are engaged, churches grow. Between 2010–2015, there was a direct correlation between growth and laity who invite others and practice evangelism. How direct of a correlation?
- Uninvolved laity: 34.7% chance of growth
- Some involvement: 45.2% chance of growth
- Quite involved: 63.3% chance of growth
- Greatly involved: 90.1% chance of growth
Personal invitations are still far and away the most likely way to get people to visit a church. Churches with a desire to grow need to inspire and mobilize their members to share the gospel and invite people to church. When the staff understands that their primary role is to release people into ministry and celebrate their victories, churches flourish.
Paying attention to trends
The church’s commission is the same as it has ever been. We need to be going into all the world and creating disciples. It is critical that we pay attention to trends and adjusting our strategies to strategies to overcome challenges and take advantage of opportunities.
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